Gary Sain, 61, president and CEO of Visit Orlando, passed away suddenly and unexpectedly on Friday evening, May 4, after giving opening remarks at a charitable event for which he was event chairman, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida's Celebrate the Children fundraiser, held at the Orlando World Center Marriott.
Paul Tang, Visit Orlando's chairman, who sent out the announcement on Saturday morning, said Sain left the banquet after his remarks and collapsed before being transported to the Florida Hospital Celebration Health, where he was pronounced dead.
Sain grew up in the convention and visitors bureau industry, the son of Frank Sain, who ran the Chicago and then Las Vegas bureaus for years, and who died in February at the age of 86.
“Gary was an amazing leader, an amazing industry professional, but maybe even more, an amazing human being. He was proud of his team, his family, his community, and his profession. He celebrated the accomplishments of today, but always was thinking of how to make tomorrow even better. I will miss Gary, but will do all that I can to carry his vision and dreams forward,” said Tammi Runzler, senior vice president of convention sales and services, Visit Orlando.
“Gary was a visionary leader and a giant in our industry who worked tirelessly on behalf of Orlando and the travel and tourism industry,” commented Michael D. Gehrisch, president and CEO, Destination Marketing Association International. “Just recently, Gary worked with the Destination & Travel Foundation to establish the Frank C. Sain Memorial Fund in memory of his father.”
Tang noted that Sain was honored numerous times for his contributions to the hospitality industry. “Visit Orlando team, our destination partners, and our community have lost a wonderful leader and friend. He will truly be missed by all who knew him.”
Sain joined the Orlando Convention & Visitors Bureau — later renamed Visit Orlando — in 2007, where he is credited with helping Orlando reach a record of 51.5 million visitors in 2010, the first U.S. destination to surpass the 50 million visitor milestone.
He is survived by his mother, Elizabeth Sain; his wife, Pam; daughters Olivia Sain and Vanessa Sain-Dieguez; and Olivia's husband Luis Dieguez.